When you don’t know what else to do, sue.
To critics in both major national parties, the Democratic National Committee seems to be following that dubious legal advice with the lawsuit it filed last week that alleges collusion between Russia and Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.
Without naming Trump, the suit does include long-time Trump confidant Roger Stone, along with Jared Kushner, Donald Trump Jr., WikiLeaks and Guccifer 2.0, the hacker who claimed credit for the DNC breach that released private DNC emails through WikiLeaks.
Some from both parties ridiculed the suit as a distraction from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation and from the cash-strapped DNC’s rebuilding efforts as midterm elections approach.
In a tweet, David Axelrod, former adviser to President Barack Obama, called the DNC suit a “sideshow” that seems “spectacularly ill-timed” and helpful only to President Trump’s “strategy of portraying a sober and essential probe as a partisan vendetta.”
On the Republican side, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes of California scoffed that the lawsuit was “nothing more than a scam to keep their base fired up.”
He says that like it’s a bad thing. No one should be shocked that either party wants to keep its base fired up and the DNC’s current needs are dire. Unlike the party’s state organizations and various candidates who are experiencing a windfall of support, the national DNC has fallen way behind its Republican counterpart in fundraising.
Internally, DNC leaders also have tried to repair divisions and hard feelings between the Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders after the brutal primaries of 2016. The DNC itself is getting sued by Sanders supporters alleging that the emails released by hackers show DNC employees conspiring to help Clinton win the nomination.
Legally, Chairman Tom Perez and other DNC leaders think they have a case, and they could be right.
Real damage has been done. The cyber-invaders cost DNC real money, resources and -- who knows? -- maybe the election.
Nor is the lawsuit unprecedented. Former DNC Chair Lawrence O’Brien filed a similar suit in 1972 after the break-in to his office in the Watergate Hotel complex. Two years later, he won the suit, ironically on the same day President Richard Nixon left office.
In the more polarized and contentious age of today, Team Trump adds a new element: a possible countersuit. Stone, a veteran of Nixon’s team, said over the weekend that the lawsuit opens the Democrats up “to discovery,” a procedure that allows both sides in a legal dispute to obtain evidence from the other side.
“My lawyers and I want to examine the DNC servers to settle this bogus claim of Russian hacking once and for all,” Stone wrote in an email to CNBC, expressing his view that DNC is merely peddling “a left-wing conspiracy theory.”
Meanwhile, Team Trump peddles right-wing conspiracy theories that it was the Clinton campaign that actually colluded with the Russians, although that theory is built on more speculation than hard evidence.
In another weekend tweet, Trump also goaded Democrats with the threat of a countersuit. “So funny, the Democrats have sued the Republicans for Winning. Now the R’s counter and force them to turn over a treasure trove of material, including Servers and Emails.”
But will we see both sides engage in a drawn-out legal battle for each other’s private files? It isn’t clear what grounds Trump and Company might use for such a pursuit. More important, Trump has a long record of threatening more court fights than he actually wages.
You might recall his similar promises to sue the publisher of Michael Wolf’s “Fire and Fury” or CBS News for a Stormy Daniels interview or the many women who have accused him of sexual misconduct. None of those lawsuits has yet materialized. Countless journalists are waiting for the discovery process that any of those actions might open up.
More important, since Trump’s surprising election shook things up in 2016, Democrats have been scoring significant victories in special elections. That’s given Perez a little more running room to try such offbeat stunts as the lawsuit against Team Trump.
But to win the midterms or prepare for the 2020 presidential, Democrats need to offer answers for issues like good jobs, health care and school funding, just for starters. Lawsuits are not enough.
Clarence Page at firstname.lastname@example.org.